October 13, 2015

BEAUTY IS NOT ABSTRACT:

Why Absolutely Everyone Hates Renoir : The protestors in Boston who declared even God despises the maligned Impressionist might be on to something. (KRISTON CAPPS, 10/13/15, The Atlantic)

Max Geller, the leader of a group called Renoir Sucks at Painting, organized the strike earlier this week. And it's fair to say Geller has strong feelings about the artist. Yesterday, after he received some counter-criticism from The Boston Globe's art critic, Sebastian Smee--who called the protest at the MFA "sophomoric"--Geller challenged him to a duel on Boston Common. But in denouncing the anti-Renoir movement as a stunt, even Smee wasn't going so far as to stand up for Renoir.

"Is it worth getting worked up about Renoir?" asked Smee. "He is an artist I detest most of the time. Such a syrupy, falsified take on reality."

Looking back through art history, it's clear that thinking Renoir sucks is a popular and well-established sentiment. Plainly, though, he must have had fans, or people wouldn't feel obliged to organize against him today. It's easy to see the early appeal: Renoir fell in with a camp of innovators, the French Impressionists working in the late 19th century, who were pushing the medium of painting forward, and art collectors and capitalists like Albert Barnes and Duncan Phillips rushed forward to support the new modernism. But not all of the experimental works that made the bulk of early modern-art collections has aged well. In hindsight, some of these investments were mistaken.

The complaints from Geller's group sound like praise in comparison to the worst insults that have been hurled Renoir's way. Then and now, critics complain that Renoir was promiscuous with color. That he paid no heed to line and composition. His works were never formal explorations of light and shadow, like Monet's, or social critiques of the turn-of-the-century era, like Manet's. One of Impressionism's fiercest critics, Albert Wolff, a writer for Le Figaro, wrote in 1874 that what Renoir did with paint was unnatural, maybe even unholy. "Try to explain to M Renoir," he wrote, "that a woman's torso is not a mass of decomposing flesh with green and purple spots that indicate the state of total putrefaction in a corpse!"

Posted by at October 13, 2015 4:53 PM
  

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